Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Whiny Bastards, Aren't They?

The North Koreans seem a tad upset that we aren't reacting as expected to their missile test And truth be told, I worried we'd fold like a house of cards in the face of North Korean bluster. Not that I worried about the weak UN reaction other than as an indictment of the failure of the sainted international community to man up over the threat. In practice, even a tiny ratcheting up of pressure could help push North Korea over the edge into collapse.

Anyway, North Korea wants us to say we're sorry about criticizing their recent missile test:

North Korea threatened Wednesday to conduct nuclear and missile tests unless the U.N. apologizes for criticizing its April 5 rocket launch, dramatically raising its stake in the worsening standoff over its atomic programs.

Pyongyang's Foreign Ministry said in a statement the country "will be compelled to take additional self-defensive measures" unless the U.N. Security Council apologizes immediately. "The measures will include nuclear tests and test-firings of intercontinental ballistic missiles."

White kind of junior high thinking goes on in Pyongyang? Actually, it's worse. It is a toddler tantrum. Apologize for saying mean things about our missile launch or we'll launch more and blow a nuke? Go ahead. Use up more fissile material. Every test is one less actual warhead you might have to use. If they can actually pull off a non-fizzle. And if they do, maybe the world will finally squeeze the nutjobs enough to die. So as I wrote before their first test, smoke 'em if you've got them.

It must be frustrating for the Pillsbury Nuke Boy. He endured the Bush administration for eight years and thought he'd relive the glory days of the 1994 Agreed Framework with a new Obama administration, and finds that President Obama hasn't whipped out the check book (for Kim, that is).

I'll give President Obama credit for not giving in to North Korea's tantrum. Let them hold their breath until they turn blue.

Oh, wait. About that apology? Fine. I'm sorry you're all a bunch of whiny, evil, bastards. Better?

Now run along and play in traffice, or something.

Score One for the President

President Obama has gotten one of our best allies to increase their troop commitment to Afghanistan:

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who has mostly played down prospects of increasing Australia's commitment against Afghan insurgents since taking office in 2007, said he had been persuaded to increase the deployment during discussions last week with President Barack Obama.

The deployment of 450 new forces is Rudd's first new military commitment to the Afghan war, and gives him a political stake in the outcome at a time when Australian public opinion has dipped following a string of combat deaths.

The new troops would mostly focus on training the Afghan National Army in the southern province of Uruzgan and will include a temporary eight-month deployment of 120 soldiers to enhance security around the August elections, Rudd said.

Training and temporary security isn't ideal--I'd much prefer Australia to do some heavy lifting be committing a regular infantry battalion--but it is freely given help and I'll simply thank Australia for what they will do and not whine about what they won't do. That's all we ever ask of the Coalition of the Willing.

And I'll give the president credit. I'm not, so far, happy with our new foreign policy direction, but I'll not just reflexively complain about Obama's decisions. I still want us to win, after all.

Squelch This Fast

Al Qaeda in Iraq seems eager to provoke an Iranian-supported Shia backlash against Sunni Arabs in Iraq:

Twin car bombs ravaged a popular shopping area in Baghdad's biggest Shiite district Wednesday, killing at least 41 people in another powerful strike by suspected Sunni insurgents seeking a return to sectarian chaos.

In less than a week, blasts have struck the heart of Shiite traditions and unity: hitting Shiite pilgrims, a revered shrine and now teeming Sadr City in attacks that have claimed nearly 200 lives.

The once-powerful Shiite militias have so far largely held back from retaliations — and reopening memories of the back-and-forth bloodshed from Iraq's 2006-7 sectarian slaughters.

We endured the 2006-2007 effort to ignite full blown civil war in Iraq. I doubt if the far weaker combatants can succeed with this tactic, but I'd rather not take any chances. If al Qaeda gets Shias to reactivate their death squads, the Sunni Arabs could abandon the Awakening movement to defend themselves from Iranian-supported Sadrist death squads. That would be foolish and just result in the ethnic cleansing from central Iraq of all Sunni Arabs plus a long grinding fight in Anbar.

The Iraqi government would win this new war, but it is still not something we should welcome. Protecting the Shias must take a very high priority.

Safe to Go Back in the Water

Well what do you know? America's most over-rated strategic thinker who once supported the Iraq War but bailed once his wife said they couldn't get invited to the good parties (I'm admittedly speculating on this reason), is now writing of the centrality of the war to beating al Qaeda. Jennifer Rubin has the goods on Tom Friedman:

So to recap: the Bush team kept us safe from an implacable foe by using interrogation methods which the American public approved of and by fighting (often against the admonitions of Friedman and his colleagues) and largely prevailing in Iraq. The latter effort may deal a death blow to Al Qaeda which one supposes made it a very worthwhile endeavor. Well, yes, Friedman awards Obama the prize for “doing [his] best” in a war largely waged by his reviled predecessor – who is rarely praised for doing his best, but we get the point.

You know we've won in Iraq when our most conventional of conventional thinkers, ever mindful of the wind sock of elite opinion blowing in Washington, sees the impact of winning in Iraq.

Not In My Name

Our president doesn't seem to think highly of the country that elected him:

At a stop on his grand global apology tour this spring, President Obama was asked by a reporter in France if he believed in "American exceptionalism." This is the notion that our history as the world's oldest democracy, our immigrant founding and our devotion to liberty endow the United States with a unique, providential role in world affairs.

Rather than endorse the proposition -- as every president in recent memory has done one way or another -- Obama offered a strange response: "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."

Let me just say that our president does not apologize in my name. We are exceptionial. Period. Atlhough the world may yet see how well they get along with an America that won't act on that confidence in our positive role. Good luck with that.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Memories of the Way We Were

In the debate over how we get information from enemy prisoners it would be helpful if our leaders and our media would remember the history of this issue:

Maybe, for instance, the speaker doesn't remember that in September 2002, as ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, she was one of four members of Congress who were briefed by the CIA about the interrogation methods the agency was using on leading detainees. "For more than an hour," the Washington Post reported in 2007, "the bipartisan group . . . was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

"Among the techniques described," the story continued, "was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder."

Can it be that it was all so simple then? Or has time re-written every line? If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we? could we?

Sadly, those leaders who were once for it are now against it, and our reporters don't seem particularly interested in noting this evolution in thinking. What's too painful to rememberwe simply choose to forget, it seems.

The memories are getting misty, aren't they?

Monday, April 27, 2009

But What Would They Have Us Do?

Some of our Deeply Concerned Congresscritters had themselves arrested in front of the Sudanese embassy to show how much they care about Darfur:

The arrested lawmakers are Democratic Reps. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, John Lewis of Georgia, Donna Edwards of Maryland and Lynn Woolsey of California.

All proud opponents of rescuing Iraqis from Saddam or the tender mercies of Sadrists and jihadis. So we all know they don't support actually doing something about Darfur's agony. The whole point is to focus on how much they care. And that doesn't actually require anybody to save the Darfurians:

The community of compassion is only concerned as long as the focus is on dance troupes and discussions, and the weepy remembrance of the victimization of some benighted people whose national dance might be extinguished. Once it comes to the bloody work of stopping thugs? Well, they didn't sign up for that!

So today, the community of compassion asserts "we all are Darfurians." Today, of course. And yesterday we all were Americans. We know how that worked out. And there were others in the past who qualified for star-studded concerts and benefits.

And if the Darfurians are extinguished despite the concern so prominently displayed today, there will be others to rally the community of compassion tomorrow. For victims of genocide may come and go, but the community of compassion abides.

But those five care, don't you see? And they'll always show it off. Long after the last Darfurian passes the scene, should that come to pass.

September 10th Thinking

Does an administration focused on protecting us from terrorists really do something this boneheaded?

An airliner and supersonic fighter jet zoomed past the lower Manhattan skyline in a flash just as the work day was beginning Monday. Within minutes, startled financial workers streamed out of their offices, fearing a nightmarish replay of Sept. 11.

For a half-hour, the Boeing 747 and F-16 jet circled the Statue of Liberty and the lower Manhattan skyline near the World Trade Center site. Offices evacuated. Dispatchers were inundated with calls. Witnesses thought the planes were flying dangerously low.

But the flyover was nothing but a photo op, apparently one of a series of flights to get pictures of the plane in front of national landmarks.

It was carried out by the Defense Department with little warning, infuriating New York officials and putting the White House on the defense. Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn't know about it, and he later called it "insensitive" to fly so near the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

I guess nobody in charge at the White House thought this might be alarming. A low flying passenger jet with an Air Force fighter shadowing it around downtown New York? That might be worrisome? Huh. Go figure.

But instead of showing some common sense, the administration just ended up air raiding New York and terrorizing civilians.

Perhaps Secretary of State Clinton will come to New York City to reassure those people, after experiencing the administration's policies. That does seem to be her job.

UPDATE: I was almost going to update this by noting that the administration had indeed warned the state and city of the flight, but the blame for the scare still falls on the White House:

The email sent to City Hall describes a "flying photo op" -- government-speak for a publicity photo -- to include two or possibly three passes over the area. The email, sent by an FAA official and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, lists flight patterns and specifies a photo-op altitude of 1,000 to 1,500 feet.

The email specifies that the information "only be shared with persons with a need to know" and "shall not be released to the public." It also says that, "Due to the possibility of public concern regarding [Department of Defense] aircraft flying at low levels, coordination with Federal, State and Local law enforcement agencies...has been accomplished."

You can understand why the federal government would be reluctant to let the public know. I mean, one of those recently returned veterans home from air raiding villages and terrorizing prisoners might have hooked up with right wing fanatics and plotted to shoot it down.

On a serious note, I'm glad people wisely evacuated those buildings. Based on what they could see, it was the smart thing to do. I hope this doesn't dull reaction time should it be a real attack the next time.

The New Age of Diplomacy

As the president has gone on his "I'm sorry about America" tour, reaching out to our enemies and those who simply like to pretend they're our enemy, Secretary of State Clinton has followed with her "I'm sorry our president has worried you" tour to our friends and allies.

I've already noted individual reassurances to the Iraqis and Lebanese. This report notes that the reassurances were given to far more:

At each of her stops, Clinton heard concerns from Arab allies about the direction of American efforts to engage Syria and Iran.

A U.S. official said that in Kuwait City on April 24, Clinton privately gave Kuwaiti officials a message that she has delivered to other oil-rich allies: they will be consulted as the U.S. reaches out to Iran. Persian Gulf allies are deeply suspicious of Iran’s ambitions and influence with extremist groups in the region.

They're not "just words" when our president reaches out to rogue and, yes, evil states. Friends who've counted on our help to resist these common foes have reason to wonder whether they'll be thrown under the bus as we seek to make the objects of our outreach our new friends. What price will Iran and Syria demand to be our friends? And will America pay? Or rather, will we charge it on the accounts of our friends who will ultimately pay the bill?

Say what you will about President Bush, but few friends wondered if we'd stand by them when the going got rough. Now the Secretary of State has a full time job following in the wake of the president to keep our allies from breaking ranks.

I didn't think this is what our new age of diplomacy would be. Is it nuanced, yet?

Getting Tiresome

The protests in Georgia against Saakashvili are dragging on. And after two weeks in which Saakashvili has not lost his nerve and stepped down, it seems the protesters are in danger of annoying the public:

The opposition leaders have refused to sit around a table with President Saakashvili and negotiate. They hope to force his resignation by continuing the rallies and their campaign of "civil disobedience" which is now causing minor chaos on the streets.

But in some quarters it seems that public tolerance of the opposition leaders may be starting to wear thin. Were that sentiment to grow, it would surely be an undesired outcome of these demonstrations.

I'm not a particular defender of Saakashvili. He let the Russians sucker him into making the first shot visible to the world and gave Putin the pretext to partially stomp on Georgia.

But he is the elected president of Georgia. And if the protesters force him out outside of constitutional means, this would be a victory for Putin.

I don't care if Saakashvili loses the next election. I care if he leaves from Russian pressure.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Just when you think only the left side of the aisle is nuanced enough to think retreat is really an advance, CATO reminds you that idiocy is not monopolized by the frightened left. Ted Galen Carpenter laces up his running shoes in setting forth a new policy on dealing with North Korea (thanks to Mad Minerva for the heads up):

There is a final option that deserves consideration. It would amount to inducing (bribing) China to remove Kim Jong Il's regime and install a more pragmatic government in Pyongyang, along with the explicit condition of keeping the country nonnuclear. Part of the bargain also ought to be a commitment from Beijing to promote the reunification of the two Koreas within the next generation. During my visit to China last year, policymakers there professed loyalty to Beijing's longtime ally, but there was also a distinct undertone of exasperation with Pyongyang.

If the price were right, Chinese leaders might be bold enough to topple Kim with a palace coup. But the price would certainly not be cheap. At the least, Beijing would want a commitment from the US to end its military presence on the Korean Peninsula and, probably, to phase out its security alliance with South Korea. In all likelihood, Chinese leaders also would want US concessions on the Taiwan issue.


A nuclear North Korea will lead to a nuclear South Korea and Japan, and quite possibly a nuclear Taiwan, and we need to bribe China into stopping North Korea?

And as the price we are willing to pay to China for this "favor" of accepting the Chinese conquest of North Korea, we will abandon Taiwan to China and allow South Korea to be absorbed into North Korea? (The logical result of a unification based on Chinese control of North Korea and America out of South Korea.)

So basically, Carpenter's Plan B for dealing with a potential nuclear-armed North Korea is giving China control of North Korea, South Korea, and Taiwan? After China has refused to do its part to squeeze North Korea into concessions?

And Carpenter makes this suggestion when it seems as if North Korea is faltering from severe internal problems. And really, while North Korea may well hope that talks provide goodies and nuclear weapons in the end, I'm hoping that talks just lead to North Korea's quiet collapse.

I admit China would very likely go for Carpenter's Plan B. There is only a tiny chance Peking would turn it down and if China did turn us down it would be from fear that we were tricking them under the belief that no American could be this stupid.

Well, consider Plan B duly considered. It sucks. Dude, not even the Obama administration's State Department would consider this a good idea.

Plan B in the Air

Given that we won't have many more F-22s, why don't we buy more F-15s, which have been updated, to back up the F-22s?

Armed with our latest AMRAAMs, flown by our excellent pilots, and plugged into our entire air superiority system (air power is not just planes and pilots, but the whole supporting structure of intelligence, planning, recon, ground crews, command and control, etc.), these updated Eagles would be formidable air superiority fighters in their own right:

Boeing recently unveiled its newest 5th generation fighter the, F-15SE (Silent Eagle) which could well be a F-35 killer on the export market. The aircraft is essentially an F-15 with improved radar and avionics and a modified airframe to add stealth (resistance to radar detection). Conformal fuel tanks mounted underneath the airframe create two internal weapons bays. Each bay has two stores hard points; an upper swing out weapons rack and a lower trapeze with separate doors. The trapeze can carry a 1000 pound JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or an AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile). The upper swing out weapon rack can be fitted with a rail to mount an AMRAAM or smaller AIM-9X Sidewinder missile. It also can be fitted with a 500 pound bomb. All four hard points can carry two SDBs (Small Diameter Bomb) each.

Apart from the internal weapons bays, the major retrofit to the airframe is the two tail fins canted 15 degrees outwards to eliminate nose ballast and the trim, reducing the radar cross section towards the sides. The aircraft’s frontal radar signature has been further softened out by using radar absorbent coatings to the airframe, particularly to the leading edges. Boeing claims the end-result is an aircraft that can match the frontal-aspect stealth profile of any fifth generation fighter in configurations cleared by the US government for export release. ...

Another key feature of the F-15SE is its electronic warfare system. Boeing has selected the BAE Systems digital electronic warfare system (DEWS), which includes a digital radar warning receiver, digital jamming transmitter, integrated countermeasures dispenser and an interference cancellation system. This enables the aircraft to continue to jam enemy radars even as its own radar and radar warning receiver (RWR) continues to function. The main sensor for the aircraft will be the Raytheon APG-63(V)3 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.

This plane can't be a strike fighter in a high-threat environment since its stealth features aren't good enough to hide from ground radars, but that's why we have the F-35.

The F-15 was once the "high" part of a high-low mix of fighter aircraft (the F-16 was the "low" part) so we could have quality and quantity. Why couldn't the F-15SE be the low part in a new high-low mix?

The Air Force has long argued we need more Raptors for our air superiorty needs. There won't be more Raptors. Unless our air superiority needs simply vanished, I'd think we should look for ways to meet those needs. The F-15SE seems like a reasonable Plan B. Which is what I thought nearly seven years ago (scroll down to the July 31, 2002 post). The new Eagle model makes my original argument more relevant.

They Still Need a Good Swat with the Clue Bat

The Pakistanis have been stirred to action a bit:

The Pakistani military launched an operation against militants Sunday in a district covered by a peace deal between the government and the insurgents, further casting doubt on that pact's survival.

The offensive in Lower Dir, which neighbors Afghanistan and the beleaguered Swat Valley, comes amid heightened U.S. pressure that it confront insurgents on its soil.

A statement from the army said the offensive had already killed "scores" of militants, including a commander, and that clashes had left at least one paramilitary soldier dead.

The offensive came days after Taliban forces from Swat began entering another district, Buner, which lies just 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the Pakistani capital. The insurgents began pulling out of Buner on Friday amid reports of possible military action, and threats that the government would scrap the deal.

Don't get your hopes up. These intermittent Pakistani offensives against the jihadis raise the cost in soldiers' lives by allowing the jihadis to recover time and time again.

This effort won't last long. And it won't be decisive. And so it won't be the last offensive. It won't be any of these things as long as our CENTCOM commander has to remind the Pakistanis of the bleeding obvious:

The Pakistani military's ability or willingness to take on the Taliban has been questioned by some top U.S. officials in recent days, even as they ponder giving Pakistan billions more in military and other aid.

Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, said Pakistan's leaders should focus on the looming threat posed by extremists within their borders, instead of their rivalry with India.

"The most important, most pressing threat to the very existence of their country is the threat posed by the internal extremists and groups such as the Taliban and the syndicated extremists," Petraeus told a congressional panel Friday.

The Pakistani military needs to fight extremists "rather than strictly focus on the conventional threat that has been traditionally the focus of the military, to their east, which is India," he said.

The Pakistanis make it very difficult to be their ally. But as I've often said, I'd rather have pakistan as an imperfect ally than an enemy (however much their failings would also harm their focus on being an enemy). So it is difficult to press them too much lest our pressure contribute to them breaking (either switching sides or collapsing).

It would be helpful if the Pakistanis could recognize the bleeding obvious.

What? Me Worry?

How dare the Lebanese worry that our overtures to our former common foe, Syria, might harm Lebanon?

Secretary of State Clinton is on the job (having just reassured the Iraqis):

"The people of Lebanon must be able to choose their own representatives in open and fair elections without the specter of violence or intimidation and free of outside interference," Clinton told a news conference in Beirut after meeting with President Michel Suleiman.

"Beyond the elections, we will continue to support the voices of moderation in Lebanon and the responsible institutions of the Lebanese state they are working hard to build. Our ongoing support for the Lebanese armed forces remains a pillar of our bilateral cooperation," she added.

Syria dominated Lebanon for nearly three decades before it was forced to withdraw its tens of thousands of troops four years ago this week in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. There have been concerns among anti-Syrian factions in the pro-U.S. parliamentary majority that the Obama administration talks with Syria could weaken American support for Lebanon.

Right off the bat, reaching out to enemies (and since Syria still helps jihadis into Iraq to kill Americans and Iraqis, can we really doubt they are our enemy right now?) we reduce our security by making our friends nervous. they may be less willing to resist our common enemies if they think they'll be thrown under the bus.

Of course, the Lebanese might be punished by Clinton just for doubting the powers of the soothing balms of hope and change! How dare they express worry?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Post-America America

People have been writing about the decline of America since the 1970s, speculating about who would surpass us as the dominant power. The Soviet Union, the European Union, Japan, and China have all been mentioned as candidates to replace us as the dominant power.

Who knew that we'd replace ourselves with a country that casts aside the stale concept of "America" as a nation that has been able to do great good for the world. Mark Steyn put it well:

Barack Obama is giving strong signals to the world that we have entered what Caroline Glick of The Jerusalem Post calls "the post-American era." At the time of Gordon Brown's visit to Washington, London took umbrage at an Obama official's off-the-record sneer to a Fleet Street reporter that "there's nothing special about Britain. You're just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn't expect special treatment." Andy McCarthy of National Review made the sharp observation that, never mind the British, this was how the administration felt about its own country, too: America is just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. In Europe, the president was asked if he believed in "American exceptionalism," and he replied: "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism."

Gee, thanks. A simple "no" would have sufficed. The president of the United States is telling us that American exceptionalism is no more than national chauvinism, a bit of flag-waving, of no more import than the Slovenes supporting the Slovene soccer team and the Papuans the Papuan soccer team. This means something. The world has had two millennia to learn to live without "Greek exceptionalism." It's having to get used to post-exceptional America rather more hurriedly.

I'm unhappy enough that we're to be turned into a version of the EU that has but does not use military power to defend our interests. It is rather odd for our own leaders to cheer on our decline when nobody has been able to actually supplant us due to their own efforts. We're just throwing the game by bowing out. This will not work out well for us.

But the world may get a taste of a world without the America they've complained about for years. We'll see how our president's goals for America work out for the rest of the world. I'm guessing not so well.

As it works out so often, we're our own worst enemy. Or is even that thought a bit too chauvinistic?

Getting Ready to Reset?

I mentioned this morning that the killers who've recently upped the body count in Iraq are probably counting on Iran to react in kind:

[Those] dead Iranian pilgrims are probably dead because Sunni Arab terrorists are responsible and would like to get the Iranians to retaliate through their remaining stooges and agents in Iraq. Do that and maybe an uptick in violence will frighten us off, they probably think.

Well, the Iranians seem to be thinking of reaching out and doing some killing of their own:

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's comments come as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was in Iraq and the Obama administration has said it wants to engage Iran after a 30-year diplomatic deadlock.

Iran has sent mixed messages to Washington in response to President Barack Obama's overtures. Iran's president has said Iran was ready to forget the past and start a new relationship — but he also called Israel a racist country and blamed the U.S. invasion of Iraq on a Zionist conspiracy.

"Dirty hands and evil brains that founded this blind and uncontrolled terrorism in Iraq should know that the fire will burn them, too," Khamenei said in a statement broadcast on state television.

More than 150 people, including many Iranian pilgrims, were killed in high-profile attacks Thursday and Friday in Iraq that primarily targeted Shiite worshippers.

Khamenei, who has the file say in all state matters, said American forces have brought greater insecurity to Iraq and have killed tens of thousands of people since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

"The American and Israeli intelligence services are the prime suspects," state television quoted Khamenei as saying.

Sadly, our president's overtures of hope and change seem to be unfathomable concepts for the Iranian mullahs.

My only question is whether the Iranians still have the evil brains to do their own burning inside Iraq.

Reset Button?

Secretary of State Clinton sought to reassure the Iraqis of American support:

"Let me assure you and repeat what President Obama said, we are committed to Iraq, we want to see a stable, sovereign, self-reliant Iraq," she told a nervous but receptive crowd at a town hall meeting at the U.S. Embassy in the capital.

"We are very committed, but the nature of our commitment may look somewhat different because we are going to be withdrawing our combat troops over the next couple of years," Clinton said.

On her first trip to Iraq as America's top diplomat, Clinton said the country has made great strides despite a recent surge in violence. High-profile attacks this past week primarily targeted Shiite worshippers. More than 150 people, many of them Iranian pilgrims, have died.

It's kind of unnerving that after we've bled at the Iraqis' side these last six years, that Iraqis would be "nervous but receptive." Obviously the Iraqis would be receptive to a message that we are committed to them. But given how eager the new administration has been to reach out to our enemies, it is natural for Iraqis to be nervous.

They are nervous undoubtedly because those dead Iranian pilgrims are probably dead because Sunni Arab terrorists are responsible and would like to get the Iranians to retaliate through their remaining stooges and agents in Iraq. Do that and maybe an uptick in violence will frighten us off, they probably think.

You'd think we'd stick it out and cement our victory. But the reputation of our president is such that our enemies think they still have a shot at pulling out a victory from the jaws of defeat.

It's like the triggers on those suicide bomber vests are a jihadi version of a reset button.

Handling the Truth

We're having a strange debate on torture that isn't clear enough to say we are having a debate on torture.

One of the problems is that we are only debating whether we should torture based on the widespread assumption of our leaders in the White House and Congress plus our media that we did indeed torture under the Bush administration. The only debate seems to be whether we should put those who authorized or conducted what is called torture. Their debate is over in Washington. D.C.:

"We have been through a dark and painful chapter in our history," President Obama said when he ordered the release of the Justice Department interrogation memos. Actually, no. Not at all. We were attacked on 9/11. We responded to that attack with remarkable restraint in the use of force, respect for civil liberties, and even solicitude for those who might inadvertently be offended, let alone harmed, by our policies. We've fought a war on jihadist terror in a civilized, even legalized, way. Those who have been on the front and rear lines of that war--in the military and the intelligence agencies, at the Justice Department and, yes, in the White House--have much to be proud of. The rest of us, who've been asked to do little, should be grateful.

The dark and painful chapter we have to fear is rather the one President Obama may be ushering in. This would be a chapter in which politicians preen moralistically as they throw patriotic officials, who helped keep this country safe, to the wolves, and in which national leaders posture politically while endangering the nation's security.

We need to debate whether we torture and what torture is. And if these debates are held, we should conclude that nobody should be prosecuted over what they did in our name to protect us.

If I may be so bold let me set out what I think the policy should be.

Strategypage has a useful post on the issue of torture. The public debate on this has gone beyond reason, with the definition of torture broadened to just about include placing a stale chocolate on the prisoner's pillow.

One, torture will get a prisoner to talk. If the prisoner is someone you know has information, torture works.

Two, what doesn't work is routine torture of people swept up in a broad dragnet. In this case, since everyone will talk and most people being tortured know nothing, they will talk about anything they believe will stop the torture. This does not work.

Three, as a general rule, we should not torture. We are better than that.

Four, torture must be defined and it should not include merely harsh measures of questioning under pressure. While we must have limits to what we do, those limits should not allow our enemies to carry out their plans.

Five, as much as this is revolting, we should accept that there will be rare cases where we need to torture to save a lot of people. It is suicidal to say that even in extreme cases we won't torture to save American lives.

If these factors are part of the debate on torture, it will preserve our safety while preserving our values.

If we forget these issues, the "torture" debate is only a matter of trying to harm our war effort. That is exactly the point for many of the "anti-torture" side.

Let me add two other points to consider in our debate:

Six, our enemies do what is clearly defined as torture. It is a strange world where humiliation as happended at Abu Ghraib and waterboarding under medical guidelines are torture but a quick beheading is not.

Seven, if waterboarding is torture, why do domestic opponents of "torture" routinely inflict this method on their fellow protesters in public demonsrations? Do opponents of capital punishment hang their fellow protesters to show the horror of the process? Does MADD tell its members to liquor up and drive fast down a crowded streed to show the horrors of drunk driving? If I may be so bold, the fact that lefties will submit to waterboarding but not teeth drilling or any of the other methods our enemies are eager to use should tell us something about what we do.

I'm not saying we should make waterboarding the first recourse. It is no doubt terrifying. But we've gotten information from the rare subjects we've used it on. And we should admit that there might even be circumstances where we might even need to do worse. I can't imagine we'd ever be in a position where we know we must clearly torture or large numbers of innocent people will die horrible deaths, but I'm not willing to rule it out.

In the period after 9/11, a broad spectrum of opinion approved of our response to 9/11, including both our interrogation methods and our destruction of Saddam's regime to make sure he would not strike us, too, or help others to strike us. So if there is a program to identify and punish those who carried out that consensus, a lot of people doing the moral preening now will be swept up in that net.

Once the cleansing of the "guilty" begins, the process might not be controllable. I don't think a lot of people can actually handle the truth.

UPDATE: Porter Goss fingers the hypocrites who knew very well what was expected of our intelligence services and knew what they were doing to meet those expectations:

I do not recall a single objection from my colleagues. They did not vote to stop authorizing CIA funding. And for those who now reveal filed "memorandums for the record" suggesting concern, real concern should have been expressed immediately-- to the committee chairs, the briefers, the House speaker or minority leader, the CIA director or the president's national security adviser -- and not quietly filed away in case the day came when the political winds shifted. And shifted they have.

Ah yes, I remember the reports on those filed away objections. The CIA was on super secret double probation by those Solons of the Potomic. But we knew our Congress was filled with people like that. After all, these are the people who think that the statement " I was for it before I was against it" is a sign of their nuance and brilliance.

God help us all. They're in charge of our security now. I'm sure they also have a new memo filed away showing they really warned the intelligence agencies to continue doing what they've done despite the new guidance to avoid being mean. Nothing will ever be their fault with this routine!

This will work out just swell, I'm sure.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Reset, Talk, Reset, Talk, Kaboom

It seems like the West will embark on another round of negotiations with Iran over their nuclear programs. So far we've been unable to get our allies to back real sanctions. And we can't get China or Russia to abstain from using their Security Council veto to block real sanctions.

But the administration says our presence will spark talks.

And if Iran stiffs us this time and refuses to work with us, the international community will have little choice but to back our call for real sanctions.

So how'd that work out with North Korea, a country stiffing us which has actually set off a nuclear device?

Russia's foreign minister on Friday renewed his country's opposition to sanctions against North Korea for its rocket launch and called for efforts to revive the stalled talks on ending Pyongyang's nuclear programs.

North Korea last week expelled international nuclear monitors, vowed to restart its atomic program and quit disarmament negotiations to protest the U.N. Security Council condemnation of its April 5 rocket launch.

North Korea has no oil to export and is clearly aspiring to nuclear missiles. But still the sainted international community will do nothing of substance.

But I'm sure our allies, the Russians, and the Chinese, will be much more responsible and open to sanctioning Iran than they have been with North Korea.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

God, They're Worthless

Our State Department is truly worthless.

They should all be listed as foreign lobbyists for all the good they do America.

I don't even think establishing an American Desk can salvage them.

I'm really just pissed off about them. Fire them all and start over from scratch. How could it be worse?

Two Key Capabilities

The Taiwanese are asking for modern fighter aircraft and submarines:

Ma, who has championed reconciliation with China in his nearly one year in office, described his foreign policy as "surprise-free and low-key."

But, speaking by video link with a Washington think-tank, Ma said Taiwan still needs arms including F-16 jet fighters along with design work for submarines.

These are good things to want. The air balance is being lost to China and Taiwan needs to have modern submarines, not the least to allow us to quietly intervene with our own submarines in the early days of a Chinese invasion.

Troop Numbers

Just as talk of Iraq needing 500,000 US troops to pacify Iraq's 25 million people failed to factor in local and allied forces as well as the differences between Shia, Kurdish, Sunni Arab, and mixed regions, talk of troop strength needs in Afghanistan are faltering on similar failures to understand the situation. I droned on enough about it during the Iraq War debate, and by God I'll do it on Afghanistan, too, if I have to.

At least nobody insists that we need 580,000 American troops to defeat the Taliban in Aghanistan. But talk of expanding the Afghan army to a quarter million misses the mark for a similar reaon. The COIN fight is restricted to the southern and eastern regions of Afghanistan near the Pakistan border. There's a reason most of our NATO allies are deployed in quieter areas where they don't face combat--there are quieter areas.

But we do need numbers in order to squelch the Taliban and allied drug gangs. The numbers can be provided in part by local self defense forces that operate as static forces capable of defeating small bands of enemies and capable of calling for help if bigger bands of enemies roll through. Admiral Mullen is looking at our pilot program to do just this:

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is reviewing a new community-based defense program recently started in an increasingly violent province on the doorstep of Kabul.

Adm. Mike Mullen visited Wardak province on Wednesday, where U.S. troops deployed for the first time this year. The program he's assessing draws volunteers from Afghan communities to defend their villages against militants.

"The early reviews are positive," Mullen told The Associated Press. "We are in the beginning stages, and this is a pilot, and we chose Wardak because it is such a critical province, and that's why I came today to see how things are going on the ground."

Mullen said that Wardak was "critical for the security of Kabul."

Earlier this month in Wardak, 240 Afghans — a ragtag collection of farmers, students and other unemployed men — completed three weeks of training for the Afghan Public Protection Force. Though the program is U.S.-funded, it is overseen by the Afghan Interior Ministry, which is responsible for the country's security forces.

We couldn't win with all the security forces being this low quality. But neither do we need all the security forces to be American special forces.

Preparing for a Domestic Contingency Man-Caused Event

We just gutted out intelligence work.

It will take time for the effects of this decision to literally blow up in our faces, but this is truly bad:

At the Central Intelligence Agency, it's known as "slow rolling." That's what agency officers sometimes do on politically sensitive assignments. They go through the motions; they pass cables back and forth; they take other jobs out of the danger zone; they cover their backsides. Sad to say, it's slow roll time at Langley after the release of interrogation memos that, in the words of one veteran officer, "hit the agency like a car bomb in the driveway." President Obama promised CIA officers that they won't be prosecuted for carrying out lawful orders, but the people on the firing line don't believe him. They think the memos have opened a new season of investigation and retribution.

The lesson for younger officers is obvious: Keep your head down. Duck the assignments that carry political risk. Stay away from a counterterrorism program that has become a career hazard.

But cheer up! At least we won't have to feel guilty about being mean to a small number of terrorists. That will count for a lot the next time we start clearing the rubble, right?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Moderate Taliban in Action

Who could have predicted this?!

Taliban militants from Pakistan's Swat Valley are tightening their grip on a neighboring northwest district closer to the capital — patrolling roads, broadcasting sermons and spreading fear in another sign that a government-backed peace deal has emboldened the extremists to spread their reign.

Pakistan's president signed off on the peace pact last week in hopes of calming Swat, where some two years worth of clashes between the Taliban and security forces have killed hundreds and displaced up to a third of the one-time tourist haven's 1.5 million residents.

The agreement covers Swat and other districts in the Malakand Division, a huge chunk of Pakistan's northwest that borders Afghanistan and the tribal areas where al-Qaida and the Taliban have strongholds. Under the deal, the provincial government agreed to impose Islamic law in Malakand, and the Taliban agreed to a cease-fire.

Supporters say the deal will allow the government to reassert control by taking away the militants' rallying cry for Islamic law.

But critics, including U.S. officials, have warned that Swat could be the first domino to fall to the Taliban — and that Islamabad, capital of the nuclear-armed nation less than 100 miles (160 kilometers) away, could eventually follow.

Just in case I'm the first to point out the flaw, I'd like to mention that giving the jihadis Islamic law obviously takes away their rallying cry to achieve Islamic law. But what's the point? Of course the Taliban types will stop shooting (for a bit) if you give them what they were shooting to achieve! Is this concept too difficult to grasp? I mean, it's like an alcoholic eliminating that craving for alcohol by drinking a fifth of vodka.

We cripple our intelligence agencies and our enemies gain sanctuaries.

What could possibly go wrong?

Snipping the Wires

My biggest worry about Iraq is the Arab-Kurd divide. While the trend is good, it could still blow up over Kirkuk.

I hope this defuses the bomb:

Iraqi leaders received Wednesday a highly anticipated U.N. report on proposals to ease ethnic rifts in oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk and other disputed areas, a U.N. spokesman said.

The report is not binding for Iraqi authorities, but it could offer a blueprint to try to solve the political impasse over Kirkuk, the hub for Iraq's northern oil fields and a fault line for the nation's Arab and Kurdish populations.

A spokesman for the U.N. mission in Iraq, Said Arikat, said the report was given to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other top officials. Arikat refused to discuss the contents of the report, which has been in the works since last year.

But it's expected to offer recommendations to ease tensions in the northern city of Kirkuk, such as possible "special status" that would allow joint oversight from the Arab-dominated central government in Baghdad and the Kurdish autonomous region in the north.

It would be a mistake all around for this dispute to escalate to warfare and secession.

Oh Yeah

Happy Earth Day!

Plow it. Mine it. Pave it. Enjoy it.

I love the Earth!

There Go the Stealth Carrier Battle Groups

The Navy is halting the use of Expeditionary Strike Groups:

The Navy is breaking up the deployments of amphibious ships and surface combatants formerly known as expeditionary strike groups, part of a top-down review that could have far-reaching consequences for how sailors and Marines spend time at sea.

For the past six years, ESGs paired a big-deck amphib and two small-deck gators with two or three surface combatant escorts. Now, the gators and warships will go separately.

While the Navy will, of course, reunite them for specific missions, they will lack the familitarity that continual deployment provides. I had argued for a Marine Expeditionary Battle Force concept some years ago, which was similar to what the ESGs were.

And our stealth carrier fleet can't take off without proper escorts, of course.

I can't say I like this decision.

Fighting the Last Pre-War

This is just silly:

Opponents of the Iraq war say former President George W. Bush overstepped his authority when the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. ...

They argued that Bush overstepped his constitutional authority to invade Iraq without Congress officially declaring war. They say that wasn’t the intent of the Founding Fathers.

Good grief, move on people. What is it about the never-ending debate about going to war to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime?

Our actual founding fathers waged an undeclared naval war against France (the 1798-1800 Quasi War) and the 1801-1805 Tripolitan War without Congressional declarations of war.

How much clearer can you be on original intent? Move on, eh?

Aye Colombia!

I have to give credit where credit is due:

Obama may have shaken hands, accepted an idiotic book and politely listened to diatribes from regional troublemakers. But for our ally Colombia, he wasn't just gesturing. He was delivering results.

It started Saturday, when he put himself next to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe at lunch and then studiously exchanged notes.

Having listened to Uribe, (and that must have been a nice dose of sanity after enduring 50 minutes of ravings from Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, or weird conspiracy theories by Bolivia's Evo Morales), Obama then seemed to realize that the long-stalled Colombia free trade agreement should have been passed yesterday.

The president announced that his team must find a way to pass the agreement. With world trade down 80%, the pact opens new markets to the U.S. He demanded immediate action, asking Colombia's trade minister to fly to Washington this week.

Then it got even better: Obama invited Uribe to the White House and promised to visit Colombia himself, allowing the Colombians to lay out for him their vast economic and social progress, and their desire to integrate into global trade.

We'll see if he can get this through Congress which opposes helping our embattled ally Colombia if even one union member in America might be hurt. But I'll give credit to our president for seeing what needs to be done on this issue.

A Failure to Communicate

I think maybe I have identified a basic problem with more liberal analysis of our foreign policy. Kirsten Powers says President Obama is the new face of strength and that conservatives don't get his overtures to our opponents and enemies:

The last eight years have been one long lecture about how liberals are too worried about what other countries think of us. Now, suddenly, one handshake and a grin are poisonous to world approval.

What we have here, is a failure to communicate.

Look, I didn't get to worked up about casualness with the British queen, was only mildly annoyed at the bow to the Saudi king, and thought Obama actually looked unhappy to be shaking Hugo's hand (sitting through Ortega's rant is another thing), but Powers is confused if she believes that the complaint today is that Obama's actions are affecting world approval of us.

Wrong. The worry is that our president is failing to stand up for America, and that his actions and words are poisonous to the respect and even fear of our power that keep enemies at bay and inspire confidence in our friends.

Liberals truly are too worried about what other countries think of us if they can't grasp this simple complaint.

Big-brained, nuanced thinking just isn't grasping the concept. Perhaps it's a limbic thing, for all I know. But I'm a history major so don't take my medical diagnosis too seriously.

Let's Get Small

What will our carrier force look like in a few decades?

A few years ago, I wondered if my long doubt about the ability of our large carriers to survive in a network-centric environment would founder on the simple issue of smaller hulls not being cost-effective for the number of aircraft they can hold. Was it really cost effective to lose 50 planes by going from 90,000 ton hulls to 65,000 ton hulls?

The main question at that point was whether we could cram more aircraft on the smaller hulls:

Could we put more than 40 planes (or whatever UCAV number that is equivalent) on a 65,000 ton hull if we went smaller? If we couldn't, it may well make sense--if we should have carriers in a network environment--to go up to 90,000 tons. In for a penny, in for a pound, as the saying goes.

UCAVS can be crammed into a smaller hull:

While the navy would prefer to design and build the first generation UCAVs for use on existing carriers, these smaller and cheaper aircraft go together well with smaller and cheaper carriers. This means the Ford class may be the last of the big carriers. That's because UCAVs mean you can get more aircraft on a carrier, and that creates a traffic jam type situation. Moreover, the widespread use of smart bombs means you need fewer bombers over the target. A 50-60,000 ton carrier, with three dozen F-35Bs, UCAVs, UAVs and support aircraft, can be as effective as a Nimitz with 70 F-18s and support aircraft.

I think it is wise to start evolving away from our super carriers. Precision weapons and persistent naval surveillance will force us to spend more time hiding and protecting our behemoths rather than attacking the enemy.

UCAVs with precision weapons will make our stealth carrier fleet more potent in their backup role, too.

Our fleet needs to evolve. Super carriers will remain useful for decades to come (in increasingly narrow missions), but eventually they will cease to be real assets in a wartime environment.

The March Near Georgia

The Russians are leaning forward in Georgia:

Georgia's Interior Ministry said Russia has 15,000 soldiers in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which would be far more than in past months. Since the beginning of April, Russia has moved 130 armored vehicles toward the boundary line from elsewhere in South Ossetia and 70 more have entered South Ossetia from Russia, ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said.

Russia's Defense Ministry refused to comment on the composition of its forces, and Georgia's claims could not be independently verified. European monitors who patrol the boundary lines are not allowed into South Ossetia or Abkhazia, and journalists also are stopped at Russian checkpoints.

Peter Semneby, the EU special representative for the South Caucasus, said the Russian military presence is clearly "significantly larger" than it was.

From a Georgian police checkpoint just 100 yards (meters) from a Russian roadblock controlling access to the village of Akhmaji, a half dozen Russian tanks and other armored vehicles can be seen in the valley.

Local police chief Timur Burduli said the vehicles appeared during the first week of April and are the Russian forces closest to Tbilisi, the Georgian capital. "A tank needs only 40 minutes," he said.

Along the highway to Tbilisi, a freshly dug anti-tank trench stretches across a long field. Steve Bird, spokesman for the EU monitors, said the Georgians have been building such defenses in recent weeks.

But the Georgians won't be alone for long:

NATO said on Wednesday it would hold military exercises next month in Georgia, a former Soviet republic promised eventual alliance membership but whose territory was invaded by Russia last August.

No immediate comment was available from Russia, which considers Georgia part of its traditional sphere of influence. Russia invaded Georgia to defeat an attempt by its pro-Western leadership to retake the breakaway South Ossetia region.

NATO's announcement of the exercises, which will involve 1,300 troops from 19 countries, comes at a time when it is seeking to rebuild ties with Russia damaged as a result of Moscow's intervention in Georgia.

An alliance statement said planning for the May 6-June 1 exercises began early last year, months before the war in Georgia.

It's funny how Georgian opposition groups don't rally to their government despite the clear Russian pressure. I guess Russian support isn't as "tainting" to a political opposition group as ours is, according to our more liberal citizens.

But I digress.

NATO may not be ready to admit Georgia any time soon (and there are reasons not to--namely the Georgians need to be able to defend themselves and they need to abandon hopes of regaining the territory that Russia stole from them), but NATO isn't standing aside to allow Russia another go at Tbilisi.

I never did understand why Russia started a war without finishing it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It's Tough to Unsurrender

I do worry a bit about how the Iraqi government treats the Sons of Iraq groups. Our military is watching tensions closely:

Military officials say their fear is that the arrests, while relatively few so far, have created a public perception that the government is cracking down on the groups, which could undermine the Awakening program, widely credited with helping to end the insurgency in much of Iraq.

“We don’t think it’s a systemic problem,” said Col. Jeffrey Kulmayer, chief of reconciliation and engagement for the American forces in Iraq, and the military’s top liaison with the Sons of Iraq, as it calls the Awakening Councils. “But with each individual arrest the perception is there that it’s an assault on the entire program.” In addition to the 15 Awakening leaders arrested in recent weeks, the military is tracking the cases of five others who are the subjects of arrest warrants.

While a decision by a significant number of Sunni Arabs to start up the war again would cause a spike in casualties, it would ultimately fail. The Sunni Arab Sons of Iraq are now known--down to their biometric data--to authorities. In the two years since the Sunni Arabs largely laid down their arms, the Iraqi government has gotten stronger. And the Sunni Arabs no longer have a significant Sadrist movement or large al Qaeda presence to stretch the Iraqi forces out.

In short, a renewed war would be a fast track to the expulsion of the Sunni Arabs from central Iraq at the very least.

So while we certainly don't want to look away while such a conflict develops, it is just as important to arrest truly guilty Sunni Arabs in the Sons of Iraq program who deep down still want to stage a coup to run Iraq again.

Remember, there is a very basic reason the Sunni Arabs gave up two years ago--they lost the war.

Not Exactly the Hot Gates

I don't understand Secretary Gates' logic on opposing an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear sites:

Using his strongest language on the subject to date, Gates told a group of Marine Corps students that a strike would probably delay Tehran's nuclear program from one to three years. A strike, however, would unify Iran, "cement their determination to have a nuclear program, and also build into the whole country an undying hatred of whoever hits them," he said.

There are five things wrong within this single paragraph.

One, Iran has been working on their nuclear weapons program for 25 years. That speaks of some existing determination.

Two, Israel is supposed to be worried about Iranians developing an undying hatred of them? That ship sailed long ago, as the saying goes.

Three, even if your average Iranian is filled with the love of Israel, if Iran's nutso mullah rulers nuke Israel notwithstanding the love of the Iranian people for Jews, is it really supposed to be a consolation that the Iranian people feel really, really bad about that whole nuked city incident? I'd rather have the hatred of a nuclear-free Iran than the love of the Iranian people whose mullahs have nuclear weapons. I assume the Israelis would agree on that score.

Four, who says a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities would unite Iranians rather than make them blame the mullahs for bringing this destruction down on them? Georgian opposition groups manage to protest their government despite the fact that 8 short months ago Russia invaded them. Our Left seems to have gotten over the whole 9/11 thing nicely.

And five, if the alternative is Iran with nuclear weapons, I'd rather buy those 1-3 years. I assume the Israelis would rather have that time. Who knows what might happen in that time? Who knows what the rest of the world might do to further delay or stop the Iranians?

Five problems in logic in one short paragraph. I won't judge if those were Gates' strongest words to date on the subject.

Jumping the Gun

We're counting on inertia to maintain our military dominance in the medium term as we cut back on defense acquisitions.

So defending against intrusions like this are more important than ever:

Computer spies have broken into the Pentagon's $300 billion Joint Strike Fighter project -- the Defense Department's costliest weapons program ever -- according to current and former government officials familiar with the attacks.

Similar incidents have also breached the Air Force's air-traffic-control system in recent months, these people say. In the case of the fighter-jet program, the intruders were able to copy and siphon off several terabytes of data related to design and electronics systems, officials say, potentially making it easier to defend against the craft.

As we slow down and decline to race, we can't afford to give away data that allows potential foes to sprint away.

UPDATE: We're standing up a new command to fight this war and the F-35 data loss isn't nearly as bad as the first report said. According to this.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Covering their Rear?

Pakistan is terribly worried about attacking the jihadis in the western frontier provinces because the Pakistanis continue to identify India as their primary enemy. The Pakistanis can't afford to offend the tribes because Pakistan needs the geographic depth as a rear area in case of war with India.

So when the jihadis just break off from Pakistan, how will that strategic depth look?

And I'm assuming the jihadis don't march down into the lowlands and take over the rump Pakistan, too.

The Will to Win

I've just started reading Mark Steyn's America Alone. I know I'm late to the party. But in my defense I probably have 60 books waiting to be read on my shelves. I know the basics, of course. But it bears repeating. The book isn't just about demographics. And it certainly isn't a racist screed about non-whites out-breeding the West. But it is about a lack of will to want to defend the West by Westerners who only want to enjoy the freedoms and prosperity of the West rather than defend the West.

While I believe Western Europeans will rally with whatever level of brutality it takes to defeat the threat of Islam to Europe, despite the demographics, Steyn has a very good point about the importance of determination and spirit. Too many people look at the West and see our technology and GDP and mock the very idea that virtual primitives from the 12th century can defeat us.

A small story from the Crusades illustrates Steyn's very valid concerns about Western Europe's willingness to defend our society. And no worries, it doesn't even involve Moslems, so you are free from the guilt of relativism by judging Islam.

Thomas Madden's A Concise History of the Crusades relates the fall of Constantinople in 1203 during the Fourth Crusade. Constantinople was viewed as the apex of civilized strength in contrast to the poverty and backwardness of the Western Europeans on their way to the Promised Lands, who gazed in awe at the mighty city and its walls (p. 109):

Here these hardy knights of the medieval world came face to face with the still-beating heart of antiquity. No man, said Villehardouin, was so brave and daring that he did not shudder at the sight, and with good reason. Constantinople was legendary not only for its opulence but also for its impregnable fortifications. Beyond those, Alexius III had a garrison three times the size of the crusader army. Beyond those, he had foreign mercenary corps, including the elite Varangian Guard. In its long history, Constantinople had shrugged off armies ten times the size of the Fourth Crusade. To the people of the city, the westerners were an annoyance and an oddity, but not a real threat.

Despite the outward appearance of strength, the defenders were weak at heart despite their numbers and wealth. Only the amazing walls allowed the defenders to boast of their record against attackers.

But the situation devolved until the crusaders attacked the city rather than drawing resources from the city for the march to the Promised Land.

The supremacy of will when technology fails the advanced side is made clear in this passage (pp. 118-119):

A small group of about ten knights and sixty sergeants led by Peter of Amiens landed on a narrow strip of ground outside the wall and near the shore. There they discovered a postern gate that the defenders had walled up. They fell upon it zealously with whatever implements they had on hand. It was hard going and dangerous, for from above the Greeks rained down on them immense stones and boiling pitch, which they deflected with their shields. At last, they succeeded in making a small hole. Peering through, they saw a huge crowd of soldiers inside. Surely, it was suicide to enter. One man, an armed priest named Alleumes of Clari, insisted on the honor of being the first to enter Constantinople. No amount of pleading from his comrades would dissuade him. His brother, Robert of Clari, was particularly upset and even tried to prevent him from crawling through the hole by grabbing his legs. It was no use. Alleumes scrambled through to the other side, where he was faced with an armed multitude.

That should have been that, eh? The defenders should have swarmed Alleumes and killed him, kept the crusaders out, and blocked the hole. But the technical expertise of the Byzantines in defending the walls required the walls to hold:

Then an amazing thing happened. With enormous confidence, Alleumes drew his sword and ran toward the Greek troops. They scattered. Once again, the poorly trained Byzantine troops proved themselves unwilling to fight unless the dangers to themselves was minuscule. Because most of them were provincials, they saw no reasons to risk their lives for the sake of the capital. Alleumes called to his companion, who now crawled through the hole, drew their swords, and kept their backs to the wall. When Greek troops at other locations saw the flight of those stationed near the walled gate, they panicked and abandoned their positions along the walls. Soon there was a snowball effect as the imperial army abandoned the length of the fortification in a mad dash to escape the city--all because of the entry of fewer than a hundred crusaders.

An amazing thing indeed. And while I expect the West to avoid this fate, to meet my expectations it does need to rouse itself from its growing multicultural tolerance for those who hate us and would destroy us.

We are stronger than our jihadi enemies. They have no business being a threat to us. But for that to be true we need the confidence that our society and freedoms are better than the jihadis' sick vision for our society. For that strength to mean anything, we must be willing to use our wealth and technology to defend ourselves and fight those who would kill us.

Steyn thinks the Europeans are not up to the task when confronted with those like the shrieking Alluemes who have entered our figurative walls. I hope he is wrong.

UPDATE: Well. Thank you to Mark Steyn for linking to me as the reader of the day. As I recall, I didn't get anything even remotely similar for my Sarah Michelle Gellar post. Not to seem ungrateful or anything. I'm just saying.

Training to Fight Tomorrow's Wars

Training our military in light of our Iraq experience especially has dangers if we draw the wrong lessons.

Strategypage writes about two things that I've been concerned about.

One, our military has concluded that our troops can switch between conventional warfare and counter-insurgency fairly easily as long as their leaders are adept enough to apply the right strategy and tactics and give the appropriate orders:

Last year, the U.S. Army came out with a top line field manual (FM 3-07) "stability operations" (the kind of "small wars" being waged in Iraq and Afghanistan.) The army has always had an FM-7 for "full spectrum operations" (total war, against troops in uniform, armed with a full spectrum of weapons and tactics). Now it is committed to training for both types of combat. The key to this is training the commanders. One discovery in the last decade is that the troops can switch from conventional combat, to irregular type operations, more quickly and efficiently than their bosses.

I wrote about exactly this concept about a year and a half ago (and I've railed against the idea that we should have a separate peacekeeping force on the assumption our troops can't fight low intensity wars for over a decade). It is good that our officers will be trained in both types of wars and that our troops will have the skill sets and discipline to carry out appropriate orders.

The Strategypage piece also touches on the ever-present and immediate media presence on the battlefield:

What the army doesn't like to touch too much, at least officially, is the media angle in all this. The brass are aware of the problem, and have been for decades. It was only in the 1980s that a serious effort was made to address the problems inherent in Information War. But even then, everyone at the table knew it was, well, politically sensitive, to address dealing with how the media, and its impact on the political leaders, would influence what the troops and their commanders would have to do. But the subject is being discussed by officers more and more, if only because it's the elephant in the room that really can't be ignored anymore.

The most important part of this development in my opinion is how our troops will fight successfully under that microscope. War is hell. That isn't a cliche. But war must be fought that way and our media and public could mistake the normal hell of war for crimes. I hope this aspect of the media's unblinking eye is addressed.

I am comforted by the direction we are taking in these two critical areas. If we are to successfully fight future wars, they must be successfully addressed.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

So Very Close to Making Sense

Our president defends his outreach to rogue states:

"The whole notion was that if we showed courtesy or opened up dialogue with governments that had previously been hostile to us, that that somehow would be a sign of weakness," Obama said, recalling his race for the White House and challenging his critics today.

"The American people didn't buy it," Obama said. "And there's a good reason the American people didn't buy it — because it doesn't make sense."

Oh, our president was so close to making sense.

The problem comes with President Obama's statement that it makes sense to reach out to governments previously hostile to us and his actual action of reaching out to governments currently hostile to us.

I'd have no problem with the president reaching out to governments no longer hostile to us. But that isn't what he is doing, is it?

Yes, I know I'm reaching for nuance to distinguish those subtle differences, but do ponder the difference.

UPDATE: The problem of reaching out to our current--not former--foes is that those who oppose our foes feel undermined and left adrift:

Opponents of Hugo Chavez on Sunday urged President Barack Obama not to warm up to their president without also addressing their concerns about democracy and human rights in Venezuela.

"The president's authoritarianism, which grows everyday, must be discussed," said Milos Alcalay, who was Venezuela's ambassador to the United Nations until he resigned in 2004 over differences with Chavez.

Friends suffer when we reach out to enemies. How this strengthens America is beyond me.

Praying for Oppression

Some radical Moslems in America actively work to make Americans suspicious of them and then too fearful to report that activity:

American counter-terrorism organizations believe they have discovered a new form of Islamic terrorism. It's basically intimidation via staged controversy. One tactic has Islamic clerics boarding an aircraft as a group and deliberately acting suspiciously, but legally, hoping to attract the attention of security officials and being removed from the aircraft. In one case, three years ago, the six clerics involved then sued, claiming discrimination. They also tried to sue other passengers who had pointed out the odd behavior to flight crew. A year before, a similar incident occurred at a football stadium in New Jersey.

You'll recall the Flying Imams saga (I wrote about them here and here, for example).

As I wrote in the latter post:

The FBI should investigate these imams to see if they were in fact trying to provoke an incident. Trying to give the impression that they were guilty of "flying while Moslem" rather than "flying like a bunch of jihadi suicide bombers" would have the effect of weakening our defenses for actual terrorists. Criminal charges should follow if appropriate.

US Airways should consider a law suit for civil damages for the attempt by the Flying Imams to portray the airline and its employees as violating their civil rights. Passengers should file suits for damages both to their lost time and the fear that the imams appeared to deliberately inflict on pasengers and employees on that flight. A jury should have the option of weighing the evidence.

Our enemies and their sympathizers engage in lawfare to tie us up under our rule of law to inhibit our ability to fight our enemies. If such incidents dull our responses, the effect will be that actual terrorists will get on our flights. It is time for our goverment, corporations under threat, and citizens who are the targets of our enemies to use lawfare to the extent we can.

The war on terror is far more than just the kinetics. We must fight it everywhere. Or the kinetics will return to our shores.

My DHS Confession

As long as the Department of Homeland Security is looking for former military men who are threats to national security, I might as well confess my shame that I was a teenaged killbot.

Don't say you weren't warned.

But you can't blame DHS, really. Their whole purpose is to defend the homeland. But if our president has declared the war on terror over, justifying your budget might be kind of tough without an actual threat to our homeland's security.

So our 1990s retread federal officials dredged up the dreaded 1990s Michigan Militia to justify their mission.

As the expression goes, we're in the very best of hands.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

How Would Israel Strike Iran?

If it is true that Israel will do the job if America and the West do not stop Iran's nuclear weapons program, how would Israel do it? First of all, Israel can't do as good a job as America. That's a given. But Israel has far more incentive to strike than we do.

Iran's nuclear targets are spread throughout Iran, but luckily for Israel the more immediate targets (that we know about) are located in the western half of Iran. See this map. I'd guess that the map shows eleven must-hit targets that represent the facilities that can be used to create and process nuclear materials directly useful for nuclear warheads. Mines and research facilities would not be hit from the air since these represent long-range threats and Israel doesn't have the assets to expand the target list from the must-kill targets to affect the near-term situation.

I assume no nukes will be used to disarm Iran. If Iran openly possessed nukes, I wouldn't say that Israel would rule out nukes to try and destroy Iran's nuclear arsenal. But in a preemptive attack, I think Israel stays conventional.

Aircraft will fly through Turkey and Saudi Arabia to reach Iran. But not too many aircraft to avoid telegraphing the punch. Israel can't hide the launch of a really large strike. The Israelis have practiced at the range they'd need to fly. And precision weapons means that single aircraft can hit multiple targets, reducing the need for numbers that would have been required even twenty years ago. I'm assuming that Israel could send in a force big enough to do some damage yet small enough to avoid easy detection.

Israeli aircraft might take off on the pretext of striking Hamas or Hezbollah. Some would attack those targets but the remainder would form up and head for Iran. It is always easier to disguise military activity than to hide it.

The Saudis are very worried about Iran, so I think the Saudis would look the other way while Israeli planes go through northern Saudi Arabia. The air attack on the Iranian rocket convoy through Sudan shows that the southern route is open through the Red Sea. There are four targets that could be hit from the southern route: the Fasa Uranium conversion site, the Bushehr light water reactor, the Ardakan Uranium purification site, and the Darkhouin Uranium enrichment site.

Could an Israeli AWACs-type plane reach the northern Persian Gulf before the southern strike aircraft arrive? Could it fly from India, perhaps?

Rescuing downed pilots in the south would be tricky without US cooperation to use Iraqi air space. Perhaps agents on the ground would have to help. Perhaps pilots would be told to fly to Iraq to land crippled planes or fly and ditch in the sea to hope for American help for rescue after the fact. Or maybe helicopters on make-shift merchant ship landing pads would be used to send in helicopters for rescues.

The strike on Syria's North Korean-built and Iranian-funded reactor shows that Israel could skirt the Syrian-Turkish border, perhaps mostly crossing Turkish air space while claiming their planes only went through Syrian air space and Kurdish air space in Iraq. Targets that could be hit from this direction include five locations: the Chalus weapons development facility, the Ramandeh Uranium enrichment facility, the Lashkar-Abad Uranium enrichment facility, the Khondab heavy water plant, and the Arak heavy water reactor.

Some aircraft might already be in Turkey for "exercises," reducing the refueling burden for planes flying from Israel while still allowing Turkey to deny that any aircraft took off from Turkey for the attack. Perhaps an Israeli AWACS aircraft flying over eastern Turkey would help control the strike package from this direction.

Helicopters to rescue any downed pilots would have to stage into eastern Turkey.

The strike would not go through Iraq to avoid needing to get our permission and cooperation. I don't understand why people keep insisting that Israel must go through Jordan and Iraq. The Israelis simply don't have to. And their Sudan and Syrian missions demonstrate partial routes around Jordan and Iraq.

I don't know nearly enough to say how many aircraft would be needed for each target. Some might be point targets and some might be complexes. Some might have buried facilities. But each aircraft would carry multiple precision weapons so I'd think that Israel could do sufficient damage. Even the small number of aircraft that would escort the strike packages could carry a smart bomb or two to launch from high altitude at the opening of the strikes where they'd then fly cover. Depending on the timing of reaching the various targets from two different directions, I can't imagine the time over target for the aircraft would be more than 15 minutes (athough admittedly this is a WAG).

Fighter cover would have to stay longer if rescue helicopters were in the air over Iran. Or maybe Israeli pilots would be told rescue is too difficult to arrange. Nurse your bird to friendly territory or you're on your own.

Missiles based in Israel might be part of the strike. These might be used for the more dangerous inland targets like the Yazd milling plant and the Natanz enrichment facility. Missiles might also be used for follow-on strikes as the aircraft withdraw in order to hit any targets that appear to still be intact based on satellite and drone imagery. They'd have to fire after the air strikes start dropping bombs on target to avoid telegraphing the attacks.

Submarine-launched cruise missiles from Mediterranean might also be used for such follow-on strikes. The range and flight time are too great for cruise missiles to be used in the initial strike. I doubt Israel could get a sub into the Arabian Sea without it being noticed during transit.

I suppose it is always possible that Israel could outfit a merchant ship with cruise missiles and send that into the Arabian Sea to open up the southern arc to cruise missile strikes in the first wave.

The follow-on cruise missile and ballistic missile strikes might be used to hit Iranian long-range ballistic missile sites as a secondary mission if the initial air strikes appear to have done enough damage to the priority nuclear targets.

The follow-on missile strikes could also be used to cover the withdrawal of the aircraft, rescue helicopters, and any ground elements, by making it seem as if the attacks continued, delaying Iranian reaction.

Special forces and intelligence operators could also be part of the strike package. The Bushsher reactor might be hit with commandos from the sea who either try to penetrate the reactor to disable it if there is worry about radiation release from air attacks, or guide in the air strikes if that isn't a concern. Ground teams might set off explosions in other potential nuclear targets or near Iranian political targets even in Tehran to sow confusion about the scale of the attack, which might delay effective reaction to the main efforts.

If Iran strikes Israel or even America in retaliation (NOTE: I mean American targets close to Iran, obviously, and not America itself.), will we be able to blunt the counter-strike (possibly using chemical weapons) with our combined anti-missile systems?

Of course, that would be an Iranian provocation that would allow us to finish the job with an aerial campaign lasting weeks. But that assumes President Obama is willing to wage such a war. As I've said, he'd get the Nobel Peace Prize if he did destroy Iran's nuclear program.

I'm no expert in air attacks or Iran's nuclear infrastructure. This is just a shallow, framework of a guess based on what I'm guessing is possible if Israel decides to strike and if Israel pulls together the assets. Israel seems to either have the pieces to execute this type of attack or could get the pieces.

Still, Israel has already had years to work this problem. And they may have more time to plan to get the most of their assets and to fill in gaps in their capabilities. And gain the quiet cooperation of states like Turkey, India, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, as long as Israel agrees to publicly take all the blame and deny they got any help. Arab states seem to understand that even slowing down Iran's nuclear drive is necessary. Although slowing down Iran from their point of view might just be with an eye to gaining the time to build their own nuclear arsenals. (More reason we should do the job.)

Secretary Gates says Israel is unlikely to strike this year. So Israel still has time to put the pieces together. This wouldn't be Israel's Plan A. It might only buy time. And it might even fail. But when the alternative is Iran under the mullahs with nukes, I think they'll try--regardless of what the actual strike would look like. And regardless of the longer-term problems that might develop.

My hopes that we'll engineer a revolution in Iran to eliminate the need for anybody to contemplate a military strike have faded to virtually nothing in the last several years. My hopes haven't risen in the last several months.

QUICK UPDATE: I just saw this article that says Israel is ready to attack if given the order. I guess they have the pieces. I still don't understand why this statement by an Israeli intelligence official is taken at face value:

He added that it was unlikely that Israel would carry out the attack without receiving at least tacit approval from America, which has struck a more reconciliatory tone in dealing with Iran under its new administration.

An Israeli attack on Iran would entail flying over Jordanian and Iraqi airspace, where US forces have a strong presence.

No, Israel does not need to attack through Jordanian and Iraqi airspace. Look at a map. It would be nice if crippled aircraft or rescue helicopters could enter Iraq to land in an emergency, but for the attack itself, that is simply not necessary.

Time Magazine Editors Clueless!

Headlines can be misleading. The headline for this Time magazine story could only have been selected in order to be misleading:

Report Shows Torture Is Widespread in Iraq

Wow. We liberate them and spend blood and treasure, and there is widespread torture going on by the Iraqi government, it seems.

Except that is not what the story is about:

Published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, the report examined the causes of death for 60,481 Iraqi civilians killed violently during the first five years of the war, using statistics compiled by Iraq Body Count. The findings are surprising to anyone familiar with the regular headlines from Iraq blaring explosions around the country. Executions with firearms, not bomb blasts, have killed most civilians in Iraq. Researchers say 33% of the victims examined in the study died by execution after abduction or capture. And 29% of those victims had signs of torture on their bodies such as bruises, drill holes or burns. Suicide bombers in cars or on foot were responsible for 14% of the victims in the study, while U.S. airstrikes killed 4%.

The paragraph identifies the problem right there, "anyone familiar with the regular headlines from Iraq" might actually be surprised. For those who paid attention to the war, though we are not "reporters" or "editors," this statistic is no surprise. American airstrikes killed few and death squads supported by Iran and the Sunni Arabs were very busy.

But surely, with a headline like this article has, the Iraqi government must be awful. Well, they do try:

The Iraqi government has consistently faced accusations of torture and maltreatment of prisoners through the years - and still does. The most recent human rights report from the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq cites "continuing reports of the widespread and routine torture or ill-treatment of detainees, particularly those being held in pre-trial detention facilities, including police stations."

Note the "consistent" "accusations" sentence with nothing backing it up. Note, too, the lumping in of "torture" with "ill-treatment." That is a standard tactic with reporters with an angle to pursue. If you have 1,000 prisoners with 1 instance of torture and 249 instances of ill-treatment, and you want to undermine the authorities, would you choose to write about A) 1/10 of 1% of prisoners tortured, or B) 25% of prisoners tortured or ill-treated.

Congratulations! You can be a Time magazine editor!

But what about those accusations?

How widespread torture remains in Iraqi jails at present is not publicly known. So far, neither the U.N. nor the Iraqi government has made any verifiable statistics available. But few doubt the practice continues today among Iraqi authorities and criminal elements.

They don't know. And again, note the combination tactic, lumping in the government and criminal elements. Would anybody compile murder statistics in the United States by combining police killings of suspected criminals or criminals and plain murders, and then write about police and criminal killings continue to increase, with X taking place in 2008? There is undoubtedly some level of problem in Iraq today, as it fights terrorists. It is also undoubtedly far less than under Saddam. And we are undoubtedly trying to erase lingering habits.

I think most reporters honestly try to do a good job. And as a blogger, I implicitly rely on their accuracy (or at least being accurate enough for my knowledge of history and the world to fill in gaps or correct innocent errors).

But as the traditional media dies off, consider why more people are losing trust in them. This article could be an exhibit. Remember, 95% of reporters are idiots or just doing their jobs.